the ‘New Left’ on Communism/Socialism & Totalitarian/Fascism
My choice is to dig deeper into Noam Chomsky, as I’ll explain later, and I can only imagine how you’ll loathe the length. But given that: ‘When Avram Noam Chomksy speaks: People Listen™…the length is unavoidable, imo.)
John Steppling’s Jan. 2, 2018: ‘Communism, Fascism and Green Shaming’ counterpunch.org is almost too wide-ranging for me, but it did provide me with incentive to poke about a bit. He opens with this quote:
“In the United States, for over a hundred years, the ruling interests tirelessly propagated anticommunism among the populace, until it became more like a religious orthodoxy than a political analysis.”
– Michael Parenti (Blackshirts and Red)
Echoing Hynes in a third quote he writes that if one wants to ‘stop climate change’, protest war, close the 900 US bases, etc., then:
“Which segues to another trend I am seeing. The rise of what for lack of a better word I’ll call the anti-communist left, of the totalitarian left. There is a position which decries all socialist countries, past and present, as failures. But also simply parodies of “real” socialism. This is nothing new, of course. And while there is a germ of truth in this, the problem is the encoded message that accompanies these critiques. Given the hideous hegemonic growth of U.S. Imperialism, including the NATO countries, the dismissing of socialism as rank failure puts in the service of U.S. anti communism. One becomes allies with the likes of the Dulles Brothers, or Joe McCarthy, or Dick Nixon.
That the Russian and Chinese revolutions achieved almost unimaginable improvements to the lives of nearly everyone in those countries is dismissed. Not even mentioned. As if revolution drops from the sky now and then. That Fidel Castro and Lenin and Mao and Sankara and Ho Chi Minh were all just failures and parodies of real socialism is becoming a very popular meme, and one that coincides with the conflation of communism and fascism. Usually under the rubric of *totalitarian*. Again, in a real world of Imperialist violence and class oppression and manifest inequality, such flagrant hot house beatitudes is very distressing. And it is all but impossible to argue against this (much like the accusation of conspiracy theory) because one is quickly accused of willfully ignoring the flaws and failures that did, in fact, occur. But it feels almost like a demand for a certain kind of perfection. Again, the gains are ignored. [snip]
“But the point is not what worked, or what failed, but rather the alternative. Judging Stalin or Mao or Castro cannot be done from the p.o.v. of western chauvinism. A position that takes for granted the moral primacy of the Imperialist western state. But that is exactly what is happening more and more frequently. And giving any credence to the conflation of socialism and fascism is not just lazy, but deeply reactionary.”
Parts of this paragraph were inscrutable to me even given his earlier references, but the bolded portion is what caused me to go searching:
“So, we have a coalescing of white male repressions projecting outward by way of a latent Puritanical reflex, one that must keep someone in the stocks, with an insidious white nationalism out to create hierarchies within hierarchies regards passports and citizenship — in the interest of controlling surplus populations, and a neo left anti- communism made up of a structural Ayn Randian Capitalism, with equal parts Lyndon LaRouche, and Hannah Arendt by way of Noam Chomsky.”
“The desire for “real socialism”, as a criticism, was summarised by Michael Parenti years ago…
“But a real socialism, it is argued, would be controlled by the workers themselves through direct participation instead of being run by Leninists, Stalinists, Castroites, or other ill-willed, power-hungry, bureaucratic, cabals of evil men who betray revolutions. Unfortunately, this “pure socialism” view is ahistorical and nonfalsifiable; it cannot be tested against the actualities of history. It compares an ideal against an imperfect reality, and the reality comes off a poor second. It imagines what socialism would be like in a world far better than this one, where no strong state structure or security force is required, where none of the value produced by workers needs to be expropriated to rebuild society and defend it from invasion and internal sabotage.”
“Trump actually declared Nov 7th a national day for the victims of communism. No, this is not The Onion.”
As I hadn’t even finished typing ‘Hanna Arendt’ into my Firefox bar, the most curious thing happened: a Tweet dropped down among seven or so prompts below to an exposé of Arendt’s racist/racialist? screed on Africans. I was flummoxed, to say the least, and yes, I did poke about for more, but that’s a story for another day…perhaps, and if I dare. Digging deeper into convention brands ain’t always…appreciated, let’s say.
But given my earlier vexation with Chomsky, added to the fact that his 90th birthday was being celebrated, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without bumping into glittering paeans to the World’s Most Trusted Anarchist Academic, etc., I chose Chomsky.
In Stephen Gowan’s What’s Left 2013 ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised…Nor Will It Be Brought To You By Russell Brand, Oliver Stone Or Noam Chomsky’, the author offers:
“For Stone’s and Kuznick’s benefit here’s a brief history to fill the gaps of their knowledge”
He brings brief narratives on Kim Il Sung, Mao, a more lengthy one Stalin, including:
“As to the perennial charge that Stalin murdered millions, we can dismiss this as an unexamined legend that everyone believes to be true because someone (they just can’t remember who) told them it was, and about which they can provide no details, like who, how, when and why? [the late and great] William Blum writes:
“We’ve all heard the figures many times…10 million…20 million…40 million…60 million…died under Stalin. But what does the number mean, whichever number you choose? Of course many people died under Stalin, many people died under Roosevelt….Dying appears to be a natural phenomenon in every country. The question is how did those people die under Stalin? Did they die from the famines that plagued the USSR in the 1920s and 30s? Did the Bolsheviks deliberately create those famines? How? Why? More people certainly died in India in the 20th century from famines than in the Soviet Union, but no one accuses India of the mass murder of its own citizens. Did the millions die from disease in an age before antibiotics? In prison? From what causes? People die in prison in the United States on a regular basis. Were millions actually murdered in cold blood? If so, how? How many were criminals executed for non-political crimes? The logistics of murdering tens of millions of people is daunting.” [long snip]
“Noam Chomsky is an endless source of slurs against Leninism, which he equates with “counterrevolution”, a heterodox view of what revolution is, but certainly consistent with the Brand-edited New Statesman view that it’s something other than what you always thought it was, and what you always thought it was is actually quite a bad thing that should be avoided altogether. I suppose it should come as no surprise that Chomsky answers the question, “What does revolution mean to you?”, with an attack on Lenin, the leader of a revolution that succeeded, and praise for Rosa Luxemburg, a leader of an attempted socialist revolution that failed. Chomsky writes:
“I cannot improve on Rosa Luxemburg’s eloquent critique of Leninist doctrine: a true social revolution requires a ‘spiritual transformation in the masses degraded by centuries of bourgeois class rule…it is only by extirpating the habits of obedience and servility to the last root that the working class can acquire the understanding of a new form of discipline, self-discipline arising from free consent.’ And as part of this ‘spiritual transformation’, a true social revolution will, furthermore create—by the spontaneous activity of the mass of the population—the social forms that enable people to act as free creative individuals, with social bonds replacing social fetters, controlling their own destiny in freedom and solidarity.” [snip]
“Chomsky has enormous respect for those who have failed at revolution, and enormous contempt for those who have succeeded. If we were to follow his lead and emulate the failures, while eschewing the successes, we would be sure to arrive at the same place the National Post wanted young political activists to arrive at: a political dead-end. Brand’s edition of the New Statesman follows in the same vein. Its positive statements are reserved for political action that leaves the established order in place: Chopra’s “internal revolution”; Apatow’s comedy; Lebedev’s evolution; Martinez’s new thinking; Tim Street’s “democracy.” Its negative statements are reserved for the revolutions that actually brought about the “revolutionary transformations of the deepest and most profound sort” that Stone and Kuznick say they want. So, the message is clear. Light a joint, work on your kindness and generosity, demand that corporations put people before profits, watch a Marx Brother’s movie, and tell Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Kim to fuck off.”
But I struck gold (so to speak) with Popaganda, lorenzoae’s wordpress, ‘Chomsky vs. Parenti, part 3: Support For “Actually Existing” Systems – Anti-Communism’ May 31, 2016.
“This is meant as a look at some of the areas where Noam Chomsky and Michael Parenti differ most visibly in their analysis and biases. Given their similarities, comparing the two provides a rare opportunity at substitution analysis: to quote Chomsky himself, “you can’t do experiments in history, but here history was kind enough to set one up for us.” In short, the differences in Chomsky versus Parenti’s positions makes for a useful case study in what ideas genuinely make one a candidate for marginalization, versus what ideas are actually quite acceptable despite their transgressive veneers. Click here for an all-in-one post.”
(A few bits from a long essay):
“Chomsky pursues this line of attack throughout his career. In the Manufacturing Consent documentary, he equates Josephs Stalin and Goebbels. As Michael Parenti writes in his essay “Another View on Chomsky,” “Like Orwell and most bourgeois opinion makers and academics, Chomsky treats Communism and fascism as totalitarian twins, offering no class analysis of either, except to assert that they are both rooted in some unspecified way to today’s corporate domination. In Z Magazine, four years after the Soviet Union had been overthrown, Chomsky warns us of ‘left intellectuals’ who try to ‘rise to power on the backs of mass popular movements’ and ‘then beat the people into submission…You start off as basically a Leninist who is going to be part of the Red bureaucracy. You see later that power doesn’t lie that way, and you very quickly become an ideologist of the Right’.” As in the case of Lenin, the right-wing deviant. And while Chomsky treats communism as identical to fascism, it’s often the case that the worst thing that Chomsky can say about the excesses of the American system is that it resembles communism (as he perceives it). Chomsky criticizes the secret negotiations and lobbying work that went into crafting the Trans-Pacific Partnership as “adopted in good Stalinist style.” [snip]
“Not for nothing does Martin Niemöller’s famous poem begin with “first they came for the Socialists…” There are mountains of historical evidence that capitalist states tolerate or even prefer fascism in times of crisis—admiration which is often reciprocated, as in the case of Adolf Hitler drawing inspiration for Nazi race laws from Western colonialism and Jim Crow. The latter is one of the comparisons made by Domenico Losurdo in his text “Stalin and Hitler: Twin Brothers or Mortal Enemies?,” which finds in favor of the latter interpretation by marshalling a great deal of evidence, in stark contrast to Chomsky’s vague references to “neo-Hegelian doctrines.” In fact, Chomsky’s conception of modern corporatism as a truly bad kind of capitalism places him in the company of doctrinaire liberals, who argue that capitalism was mostly fine until Ronald Reagan came and ruined it. Chomsky’s claims that American democracy has become unmoored and is “drifting” towards plutocracy situates his criticism as a liberal one—the idea that a country born as slaveholding settler-colonial empire could function in an essentially benign way is plenty of things, but socialist is not on the list.”
“In post-9/11 editions of Herman and Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent, the “anti-communism” filter has been updated to “counter-terrorism” for the War on Terror era. This might seem a reasonable enough change, though it now aligns communism with both the nihilistic killings of al Qaeda as well as Nazism. However, two articles in 2015 show that Chomsky’s tweak to Manufacturing Consent might have some shortcomings. First was the article “Flakes Alive!” in Baffler magazine, deriding the “truthers, tankies, and tofu” that ruin socialism for decent Democrats. By way of smearing these “flakes” at New York’s annual Left Forum, the author identified the “wackjob nadir” as a panel that “featured at least one ‘tankie,’ slang for Soviet apologist, or actual Stalinist.” Left Forum bills itself as the “largest annual conference of a broad spectrum of left and progressive intellectuals, activists, academics, organizations and the interested public.” Left Forum is the largest conference for Leftists, but even a single defender of the Soviet Union is outré enough to earn smears from even a progressivey-leftish publication. The USSR was both the first large-scale experiment in a worker’s state, and the largest socialist nation in the world—why shouldn’t defenders of the Soviet Union, even defenders of Stalin, be present at such a gathering, numbering in the dozens or the hundreds?”
In ‘The Mainstream and the Margins: Noam Chomsky vs. Michael Parenti, May 2016, lorenzoae brings:
“As mentioned earlier, Herman and Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent was the second comprehensive look at how the media’s owners determine what is broadcast. As early as 1845, Karl Marx explained that “the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.” Though there are many books probing the nature of broadcast media, Michael Parenti’s Inventing Reality (1986) was the first to provide an in-depth analysis of the corporate nature of the media using Marx’s dictum as a thesis. Despite Herman and Chomsky’s book coming two years later, the two don’t mention Parenti at all, instead thanking Australian psychologist Alex Carey for inspiring their work (John Pilger, perhaps revealingly, credits Carey as a “second Orwell”).
Even a cursory glance at Inventing Reality’s contents reveals extensive similarities between Parenti’s analysis and that of Herman and Chomsky—hearing Parenti discuss his book at length further cements the commonalities. In fact, beyond these two works, Chomsky and Parenti share a great deal alike. Like his superstar counterpart, Parenti has produced mountains of scholarship and given dozens of easily accessible speeches and presentations. Parenti has been a strident critic of capitalism and imperialism for decades, writing over two dozen books on nearly every conceivable issue that relates to those subjects. In a neat biographical synchronicity, both are even octogenarian New Yorkers.
However, unlike Chomsky, Parenti can’t claim everyone from Bono to Radiohead as prominent fans. Chomsky’s influence is particularly felt now during the interminable American election cycle; as Kevin Dooley points out in an excellent post on Chomsky, he “is always at his most visible during election season,” when he can be found churning out almost-weekly interviews warning about the dangers of not voting Democrat. Video of Noam Chomsky’s latest event was uploaded less than a week ago, from a discussion with former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis held at the New York Public Library; in contrast, Parenti’s last uploaded speech was from a decidedly more low-key affair held at a Canadian university in 2014.
All this is to say that, despite their similar territory and Chomsky’s reputation, Noam Chomsky looks very much like a mainstream figure, and the label of marginalized outsider would be applied more appropriately to Parenti. To one who is skeptical of Chomsky’s outsider reputation, he looks less like a silenced dissident and more like the leftmost margin of permissible criticism—the point at which an idea decisively departs the realm of mainstream acceptability and automatically becomes tinfoil-hat territory.”
His Part II ‘Conspiracy Theorism’ has too many Chomsky quotes and beliefs to bring, really, but a couple shorthanded examples:
“Speculation was further fueled when former federal counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke said that Hastings’ accident was “consistent with a car cyber attack.” In response, Noam Chomsky claimed that “conspiracy theories” around Hastings’ death were counterproductive, and it was a better use of one’s mental energies to focus on the plight of imprisoned activists like Barrett Brown.”
“Tarzie points out that “we hear variations on this all the time on the Left, among people desperate to align themselves with the serious people for good radical reasons, no matter how blatantly non-analytical it requires them to be. A variation on the above is that conspiracy theories ‘ignore/obfuscate systemic analysis,’ which if you haven’t noticed is a concept that’s all the rage among people who like to tell people to shut up in fancy schmancy ways, not just about conspiracies. Surely the most dramatic manifestation of this bullshit—and surely the inspiration for a lot of it—is Noam Chomsky’s famous insistence that it really doesn’t matter who brought down the World Trade Center [or killed John F. Kennedy]. ‘Who cares?‘ the world’s most important intellectual said around the time.”
“In contrast to Chomsky’s stunning incuriosity, Michael Parenti has written the best material in defense of substantive conspiracy analysis—really, inductive reasoning—as has been produced in the English language. Deploying his trademark wit in a speech titled “Understanding Deep Politics [55-minute (arrggh) video].
From Part 5 Lesser Evilism, May 2016.
“The constant imputation of good intentions to Democrats, regardless of evidence, is something Chomsky does quite often—for instance, he speculates that Senator Elizabeth Warren supports Israel because “She probably knows nothing about the Middle East.” However, Chomsky extends these good graces to the internal affairs of the United States itself. Chomsky will expound upon legions of horrors, but his conclusions in the past several years generally go something like this—by way of telling Americans that the “2016 election puts us at risk of utter disaster,” Chomsky says:
With all its flaws, America is still a very free and open society, by comparative standards. Elections surely matter. It would, in my opinion, be an utter disaster for the country, the world and future generations if any of the viable Republican candidates were to reach the White House, and if they continue to control Congress.”…and further white-washing.
He also quotes Glen Ford noting that Democrats are ‘the more effective evil’. In conclusion, he offers this from Kevin Dooley:
“In the face of all this reactionary pressure, the importance of maintaining actual socialist principles can’t be overstated. The reason why things like lesser-evil advocacy need to be resisted so strongly is because of its pernicious effect on many people’s ability to reject the spectacle and see how their class interests are being sabotaged by people who present themselves as allies of progress. Ceding ourselves to a Democrat that signals towards our politics or public intellectuals who constantly use their platforms to counsel the tactical wisdom of compromise instead of the urgent necessity of revolution will continue to lead us exactly where we are. The sooner we remove these influences and start building something based on our own principles the better.”
Crossposted from: café babylon